- Someone wrote suggesting I bring the traveling bookstore to Vancouver, British Columbia for an event. The idea is certainly intriguing. Yesterday I went to the US/Canadian border which happens to be only seven miles from where I live to find out what might be required. At one point, the agent I spoke with said, “It comes down to the question of work. Do you consider what you do with this bookstore work?” Trying my best not to laugh, or to get caught up in a philosophical query, I asked what he meant by work. After more discussion, he decided I didn’t need a work permit but would need to pay taxes on anything I sold while in the country. Only fair. The next day I am still deliberating in my own head if what I do is work. Thank you, Yvon.
- While on the last trip out with the bookstore, it became clear I need to take credit cards for purchases. People in cities don’t seem to carry cash and they do want to buy books. Not taking credit cards while in San Francisco meant I sold a few books for Colombian pesos and a few for euros. A very nice woman who happened to be standing at the SF Center for the Book talking with me about my business paid for a stranger’s purchase who didn’t have cash. She explained the concept of “paying it forward” to him. After I got back to Montana, a friend in Eureka stopped by the bookstore to talk when it was set up at the farmers market. During our conversation, she found two books she needed but didn’t have cash on her at that moment. I suggested she pay me later (small town). She asked about using a credit card and I explained I wasn’t set up for that. She came back thirty minutes later and gave me a Square. Some how she had an extra one. Now I am ready! Thank you, Alice.
- While I think about work and what that concept means in my relation to the bookstore, I have a query for you, dear reader. Edging into my sixty-sixth year one might think I figured out how to have a healthy balance in life: time for work, time for reflection, time for friends and family, time for myself. Instead I feel more conflicted trying to decide how to parcel out the hours. Basically I want to do more than there are hours in a day. Yes, I want to go to Vancouver and the Montana Book Festival and spend time helping in my community and finish the art project I began in the spring. Of course I want to read and also make my own books, help out at community soup night, play scrabble with the group on Tuesdays, write this blog on a regular basis and keep the books in my warehouse/garage orderly. I want to do it all and haven’t figured how to manage that. Any suggestions appreciated. Thank you, reader.
June’s traveling bookstore events have been checked off. Great adventures in Eureka, the Yaak, Portland and San Francisco. There was musing with members from Cristina’s book club in Portland and learning about Mircea’s mathematical toys that are now carried (when available as they sell out quickly) in the bookstore. There was meeting Brittany when we set up at the SF Center for the Book and having conversations with her about the life style of a traveling bookstore owner. There were wonderful people met on Mission Street who bought books and donated books. There was Karen at Mission Pie who throws the best Type-In ever and exudes the feeling of community. There was the magic of walking into the SF Center for the Book and seeing all those magnificent printing presses and people learning to set type and bind books. There was Ethan’s mom in Portland who invited the bookstore to open up near Sacramento the next time it passes through that region and Cheryl who invited the bookstore to Healdsburg. There was Matt at Ace Typewriter Repair in Portland who fixed five typewriters so quickly we couldn’t believe it, let the bookstore set up in front of his business for the day and offered new ideas for the next time the bookstore is in that town. There was Gwen in the Yaak who knows how to make everyone feel welcome and makes the best BBQ sandwiches. There was the young man at a Jiffy Lube in Spokane who helped problem solve a mechanical glitch with the bookstore on a Sunday morning and Melissa who lent cash when my wallet was stolen in Oakland. There were all the children who marveled at using a typewriter, the individuals who were happy to find just the right book(s) to buy, the invites to bring the bookstore to other towns and events.
Yes, it was an exhilarating month and an exhausting month. The traveling bookstore business is not for the fainthearted. The conversations, the driving, schlepping books and typewriters, and the excitement of new people, new ideas and new problems require sufficient energy. Which is why the hospitality offered by Cristina and Melissa and Kevin and Wendy meant so much along the way, along with meals shared with Shammus, Steve, Jesse and others.
And now we are teetering on July and more adventures. The month opens on July 1, setting up at HA Brewery just south of Eureka. On July 14-15, the bookstore returns to the Yaak for the annual Music Festival there. And on most Wednesdays we are open at the Eureka farmers market. The bookstore travels across Washington to Kent Station and Tacoma at the end of the month with a possible event in Bellingham (still searching for the ideal location to set up there). The shelves are tightly packed with new books, exciting finds and old favorites. The postcard selection has expanded and of course, there is always a chance to sit down and talk for a while. Follow us on FB for specific dates and times. Really the word ‘traveling’ doesn’t begin to capture the wonder of all this particular bookstore is capable of being.
The traveling bookstore is hitting the road big time. Or at least bigger than it has since this venture began two years. As St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore starts its third season, the events where it is is setting up are far, wide and exciting. Here is a quick list to get started and then more thoughts about all of it:
- every Wednesday when in Eureka, we set up at Eureka Farmers Market from 4-7pm at Riverside Park
- June 17 Sasquatch Festival in Yaak, MT all day
- June 22 SF Center for the Book in San Francisco, CA 10am – 4pm
- June 23 Mission Pie Type-In San Francisco, CA 3-7pm
- June 26 Ace Typewriter Repair Portland, OR 10am – 3pm
- July 1 HA Brewery Eureka, MT 4-7pm
- July 14-15 Yaak River Music Fest in Yaak, MT
- July 24 Kent Square Kent, WA 10am-3pm
…and more as summer unfolds.
Besides bringing a wonderful selection of used books and vintage postcards to a location near you, the traveling bookstore is also an opportunity to have conversations and to explore dreams. That’s how it started after all; a dream to open a bookstore and the reality that it would be tough to make that business financially viable in a town with a population of 1,037. So with enough conversations and enough brainstorming, here it is – a bookstore that can travel to where people are, a bookstore that has low overhead when parked in a small town, which can then travel to set up at a music festival, in a city or in front of your house (if you want to throw a literary party). It’s about following one’s dream and finding ways to make it happen.
It would be great to meet up with you along the way. Hope you are at one of these summer events or decide to arrange for the bookstore to come to your town/city. And, if you don’t mind, please help get the word out about this amazing traveling bookstore.
Someone asked me yesterday why I don’t review more books in this blog. I mulled it over for a few minutes and realized that for me books are vehicles. You might find this slightly amusing especially coming from the owner/driver of a traveling bookstore, but that is how I see it. Writers have ideas or stories, facts, poems, essays or opinions they capture in words on a page and then those pages sometimes turn into books. The books carry those creations from the author out into the wider world. This concept goes along beautifully with the reality of a traveling bookstore, which then carries those books to whatever event or parking lot the bookstore happens to stop at to set up.
And the traveling bookstore business is also a vehicle for conversations. The majority of customers end up talking with me. They are curious about how this traveling bookstore got started. Some tell me about their own dreams for a business or a new place, taking inspiration from how I am striving to realize mine. Others begin by talking about a book or author and end up talking about themselves. I suspect part of this penchant for conversation comes from the interior dimensions of the traveling bookstore. There aren’t numerous aisles to wander through or cozy back corners with a stuffed chair where one might settle in to read quietly. There is one aisle. And especially for people who have never experienced it before, there is often a hesitation to go into that. They see the sign that this is a bookstore but they aren’t entirely sure if they should go inside. Thus there is often a conversation to begin with – yes, this is a bookstore and yes you can go in. If people begin to read a book, especially children, they tend to sit down on the floor in the only aisle or in the doorway.
Perhaps this all might seem a stretch as to why I don’t write book reviews. If I did, it would be about a particular book that touched me. Not about a book I feel you should read. If I suggest a book to someone, it usually is in response to a conversation we had. So vehicles, yes, that’s what it’s about: the books that are carried on the shelves and the conversations shared wherever the bookstore is parked. Vehicles of imagination and beauty. Vehicles that transport us to unimagined places and times. Vehicles that bring us together.
Fear. It doesn’t have to be our default. Yet often that is where I hear people go these days. An older woman who doesn’t leave an abusive relationship tells me she is afraid of being alone. A young family in Helena, MT had plans to move to an east coast city for career opportunities. Now they tell me they will stay in minimum wage jobs in Helena because they are afraid of the possibility of N. Korean bombing a larger US city. In airports and bus stations I am urged to report anyone’s suspicious behavior or if I notice unattended luggage. When I recently mentioned that an artist from Croatia might do a residency in our town, someone asked if it was safe to bring a Croatian to our community.
I take the traveling bookstore wherever people might be interested in reading. Now I feel compelled to put more books on the shelves that turn people away from fear. Do they need to read about courage? Perhaps be persuaded by a tome to take a step towards adventure? Are there printed words that can push someone to try something they want to do, need to do? Are there books that provide us with the stamina to not let politicians or the media or timidity stand in the way?
So many remarkable stories: Wiesel’s Night, Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, West with the Night, Fahrenheit 451 and Animal Farm; poetry from Walt Whitman to Lucinda Clifton. Words on the page that hopefully move someone from sitting in fear to taking action. It is hard to say which book might work for the woman in the abusive relationship or the man in my town who fears foreigners from countries he knows nothing about. I have to believe that reading just the right words might open their eyes to a life not limited by fear, to help push aside the bars that cage them.
Yes, there is still snow in the mountains but spring is here. The lilac bushes are slowly starting to get buds. I heard there are crocus blooming although I haven’t seen any myself, and the season’s first event has been scheduled for April 22: Books, Bread and Beer as its the traveling bookstore, Yvonne’s Simply Sourdough and of course the mighty HA beers all at HA Brewery on Grave Creek Rd. Other events are starting to get sorted from a couple great times promised in the Yaak (June 17 and July 15) to an appearance in Tacoma, WA, the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, Eureka Farmers Market and others that are still taking shape. Once the summer schedule is set I will certainly let you know.
For now it is enough that the snow is gone, people are thinking of gardens and I am taking the bookstore out on the road. The winter has been too long but now I am ready to put in piles of books I accumulated this winter, make a new sign (left the last one in Rock Island, IL at an event last September), and load up the typewriter. And this season will be very special as I am quitting my day job to put more time into having the bookstore on the road. A shift but I think sixty-five and a half is the perfect age for this sort of adventure. I can still manage those boxes of books, drive a long day when needed and enjoy talking to just about anyone who shows up.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers…” This winter seems as though it might just last forever. Here it is March 5th and more snow on top of the piles we already have. And this is a minor problem compared to the political situation. But I am not giving up. I shovel the snow around the bookstore, work on inventory that piled up in the colder months, go to rallys, write letters and make phone calls to those I hope represent me in Washington, and talk with people. I recently re-read Christopher Morley’s “Parnassus on Wheels”. It’s about a woman who buys a traveling bookstore, so of course suits me but I think even those without a bookstore would enjoy it. The Professor (in the book) goes into towns, farms and even stops people along the road to tell them about the glory of reading.
I don’t know what the solution is for these current times but reading might help. All kinds of reading from classics to what is on the best seller lists, from nonfiction that explains history, geography and economics to foreign authors who offer views into other cultures. Discussing those books also helps which is why programs (like Humanities Montana) and, dare I say, serious book clubs are beneficial. Someone (younger than me) said today over lunch, “Reading a newspaper or book makes me think about the issue, while getting information only on social media can cause a knee jerk reaction.”
As spring thaws the roads and I begin to take the bookstore out to events, I look forward to conversations I will surely have with people. I look forward to sharing ideas, comparing views, listening to differences and maybe suggesting a book or two. I am not giving up.